Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not, and a sense of humor was provided to console him for what he is. - Oscar Wilde
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Animation, Art, and Other Shiny Things
Part 5 – The Aftermath
We’ve been using the HTPC now for about a month and I’ve realized that I’m actually watching more television now! The TV isn’t on any more than it was, but I’m paying more attention to the shows that are on because I’ve taken the time to chose them rather than to simply settle on them as I flip by. This has actually opened me up to some interesting and good shows I wouldn’t have ever considered tuning into pre-HTPC. More on that later, though.
I did finally get good control of everything into the single Harmony remote. Part of the issue there stemmed from having to go through the iMon software built into the case. A bit of a bother, but the remote’s programmability helps alot. Getting it down to the single remote affected the WAF (Wife Acceptability Factor) greatly, but for the first few weeks Aunt Bee was much like a cat at a fish pond; there are things in there that I want but if I try to get them my paw gets wet – and what if I fall in? She is getting the hang of it, though.
I should probably mention right off the top that I have been playing with torrents and TED (Torrent Episode Downloader) to help solve those issues where a program isn’t OTA (Over The Air) or carried by Hulu. There are ways I could automate the process further to add the file to XBMC’s library, but I’m still getting used to the whats and hows of torrents for now.
I’d be more than happy to sing the praises of a torrented episode’s lack of commercials and often better video quality over Hulu or Zinc, but the fact of the matter is that I would very much like to see the online video business model become successful and accepted. Compared to ‘regular’ TV, online tv has a fraction of the commercials and, besides being able to time-shift (cable requires a DVR or the like), online tv allows you to place-shift. Basically you can take your television on the road.
There’s a few things that are shaping up as impediments to the serving of tv online; content providers (the major networks and cable channels, really) are unsure of the viability of online tv, setting up an HTPC is still just complex and expensive enough to be daunting to a novice computer user, and even if you do get one of the pre-built and pre-loaded boxes you will have to do without something – a show from that one provider, maybe live sports, etc.
I think the first impediment listed is probably the largest rock in the middle of online tv’s road. In poking around the intertubes it appears that the “cost per eyeball” is necessarily higher online right now, and when you have a show that’s a money-making franchise then pricing is important and you want to keep that cost in the right spot depending on the show. One of the reasons shows like Leverage and Memphis Beat weren’t distributed any further than the TNT website. On top of that, any folks that move over to online-served content is one being subtracted from all or part of cable tv’s revenue stream. In the grand scheme of things, though, television will almost assuredly get integrated into the web eventually so they’ll get it figured out. Anyways, a digression…
It’s becoming apparent that I should have went ahead and picked up a dual-layer DVD burner for the machine as transfers between my machine and the HTPC (over a wireless network) can be slow and burning from a directory on the HTPC is just not viable. That would make it easier to move any required pre-processing over there too.
And chalk this up to my glaring lack of networking chops, but I’ve been unable to get a remote access program to work. I could build a computer in the dark, but something about networking escapes me and that blind spot is giving me fits trying to get UVNC to talk. It’s no doubt something excruciatingly simple, but… Not a huge issue, but it would be nice to access the machine while Aunt Bee is watching an OTA show.
Speaking of shows; Thanks primarily to the library, the huge library of movies on Hulu, and our local OTA station RTV, I haven’t bothered signing up for Netflix yet. I’m sure we will at some point, but so far there hasn’t been any reason to spend the 9 bucks yet. Other than the UW football game last week we haven’t even turned on the cable box. In other words; live sports is the last real reason to keep it around for our household. With The Z attending the UW this year, and our family always being fans of the Huskies, we will miss them when they aren’t shown on broadcast TV, but then maybe it’ll spur us into getting a couple tickets to a game. A billion times funner, really.
I did get an e-mail the other day that I’ve been waiting for for months; the skinny on NBA All-Access. Live HD games on the HTPC, 3 at a time if I so choose. The price was about what I expected – $110 to follow 7 teams, $180 for all 30. Since I’ll go for the 7-team option that spreads out to about $9/month over the year, or $13.75/mo applied only to the 8 months of the season. A good deal considering.
All in all, the transition to online television is turning out to be easy. Once we got the hang of the difference in thinking new viewing habits started to fall into place and now we are much more active in deciding what to watch vs settling on the best of questionable options. The decrease of commercials is wonderful as well considering the political season is in full throat and the ads will only get worse over the next 4 weeks.
Overall I’m very happy with how this project has turned out. We’re getting better TV, saving money, and the HTPC is pretty easy to use and maintain. Certainly I’ll streamline it and tweak things as time goes on, but as it stands now it’s a great fit for my family.
And this is probably the final “official” chapter of the HTPC saga. No doubt I’ll post a bit about the movies and shows, and maybe even a tad about video processing and various tweaks, but the project itself appears to be complete.I hope you’ve found it informative (or at least entertaining to some degree) as the entire process has been for me. Questions or comments are more than welcome.